4. Gospel expansion into Greece, 16:1-20:38

vii] Apollos and the followers of John the Baptist


Luke now provides an overview of Paul's movements from Corinth to Ephesus, and back home to Antioch. This leads to Paul's third missionary journey as he heads off again through Galatia, revisiting all his missionary churches, and ending up again in Ephesus. Within this overview of Paul's movements, Luke records two rather strange incidents. First, we have the story of Apollos who knew only the baptism of John and who was therefore given further instruction in The Way by Priscilla and Aquila. Second, we have the encounter of Paul with some disciples of John the Baptist who, like Apollos, knew only the baptism of John. Paul also sets out to instruct them in The Way.


The continued expansion of the way even gathers in the disciples of John the Baptist.


i] Context: See 15:36-41.


ii] Background:

iWater Baptism in Acts, 2:37-41;

iBaptised in /into the Name of Jesus Christ 10:44-48:

iThe baptism / filling of the Spirit - See Excursus

iMap, Antioch to Ephesus, See 18:1-17.

iThe figurative use of the word baptise: The English verb "to baptise" is virtually a transliteration of the Greek verb baptizw, baptizo. Our problem is that when Bible translators see the Greek word they usually just use the English equivalent "baptise" which is then commonly understood to refer to water baptism. The word has a strong image for us, an image controlled by the practice of water baptism in the church. Yet, this image is often misleading.

The Greek noun baptisma means "overwhelmed" or "immersed". In the literature of the time, it could be used literally (eg., the dying of cloth), or figuratively (eg., oppressed by a terrifying experience). In using the Greek word instead of its actual meaning, our Bible translators have inadvertently led us to understand "baptism" in the terms of a person being immersed in water as an outward expression of repentance and belief. The word is certainly used this way in the New Testament, but by no means always.

The most common figurative use of the word relates to a believer being immersed in the Holy Spirit. Jesus pours out the Spirit; he is like a fountain to drink from, a life giving drink, John 7:37-39. This "outpouring" of the Spirit was prophesied in the Old Testament and fulfilled in the New, Joel 2:28, Ezk.39:29. The phrase "immersed (baptised) in the Spirit" serves primarily to express the regeneration of those who are dead to sin, although it can, at times, merge with "filled with the Spirit" (the Old Testament sense of being empowered for a divine task, usually prophetic - "filled ..... speak"). We come alive in Christ through the washing of the Spirit who daily renews and empowers us in the image of the glorified Christ, Gal.4:6, Rom.8:9-11, Titus.3:5-7. For all believers, this is a work of grace appropriated through faith.

A lesser figurative use is that of being immersed in suffering. It's what Jesus calls "a baptism of fire"; "I have a baptism to be baptised with, and how great is my distress until it is accomplished", Lk.12:5. Jesus, of course, is referring to the cross.

Another rather interesting figurative use of the word (if not controversial!) is that of immersed in truth. The most controversial, and yet likely example of this usage, is Matthew 28:18-20. In Matthew, Jesus gives authority to his disciples to serve as his agents in the world in order to baptise / immerse people "in the Name", ie., in the person and authority of Jesus. They are to go and make disciples - to gather in the lost and form a new community. Although the idea is somewhat left field, it is likely that immersing someone in the Name has nothing to do with water, but rather, everything to do with immersing people into the truth of the gospel, into Jesus.

So, when Jesus sends his disciples out "baptising", it is most likely that he is sending them out to preach. He is using the word "baptising" in a figurative sense. So, the phrase "baptising them into the Name", is best understood to mean "immersing them into the truth of the gospel." Jesus is not telling his disciples to go throughout the world dunking people in water, but rather immersing them in the person of the living God; he is telling them to go throughout the world proclaiming the gospel and teaching those who respond - introduce them to the way of Christ, with the authority of Christ. Remember, John, in his gospel, makes a point of telling us that Jesus didn't actually baptise anyone with water.

In Acts 18:24-19:7, Luke records two stories of John the Baptist's disciples encountering the Christian faith. The baptisma, "baptism / immersion", referred to in these stories is best understood as a figurative immersion in truth. The problem facing Apollos who "knew only the baptism / immersion of John" was corrected when Priscilla and Aquila "explained the way to him more adequately." Similarly, the problem facing the twelve disciples of John who were baptised "into the baptism of John", was corrected by baptising / immersing them eiV, "into" the name of the Lord Jesus, into the person / teaching / gospel of the Lord Jesus, ie., they were instructed in the Way. Water baptism, as a sign of repentance, doesn't quite fit with the rather strange circumstances recorded in this incident.

There is little doubt that both the twelve disciples of John and Apollos had received water baptism at the hand of John as a sign of their repentance, but Luke's record of their encounter with the Christian faith gives us an expanded understanding of the phrase "the baptism of John." Their problem is not correct water dunking, but insufficient information. They were short on the truth, not short on water - they got the water, but only part of the truth. There is no evidence whatsoever that those early disciples of John, who became Jesus' apostles, were re-baptised. And anyway, who would baptise them, given that Jesus didn't baptise anyone with water? Note the way Priscilla and Aquila handle Apollos. He "had been taught in the way of the Lord", although as a disciple of John, he was short on information; it was introductory, inadequate. So, Priscilla and Aquila "explained to him the way of God more adequately."

Apollos, and the disciples of John, knew of John's understanding of the coming messiah, but in varying degrees they were short on the facts. Knowing "the baptism of John" implies more than just immersion in water, it implies, above all, an immersion into John's understanding of the coming kingdom. Their problem is rectified, not by a second water baptism, but by an immersion "into the name of Jesus", that is, into an authoritative exposition of the gospel / news about Christ.


iii] Structure: Apollos and the followers of John the Baptist.

An overview of Paul's movements, v18-23

The integration into the way of followers of John the Baptist:

Apollos, v24-28:

Ministry in Ephesus, v24-25;

Instructed in the way by Priscilla and Aquila, v26-28;

The disciples of John, 19:1-7:

Paul meets some of the Baptist's disciples, v1;

The key question, v2:

"did you receive the Holy Spirit when you believed?"

Immersed "into the name of the Lord Jesus", v3-5.

The twelve disciples of John receive the Holy Spirit, v6-7.


iv] Interpretation:

Unlike may towns, Paul leaves Corinth freely after a lengthy stay. Luke mentions the vow, which in cultural terms is probably Nazarite, and is presumably related the Paul's vision, although Luke doesn't make the link. Paul's visit to Ephesus is short and swift, and interestingly, he receives a warm welcome at the local synagogue. He leaves Priscilla and Aquila there, probably as his representatives, and then heads off to Antioch (possibly via Jerusalem, so Fitzmyer) via the port of Caesarea. Paul then begins what is often called his third missionary journey, although it is more in the terms of the ordering of his existing mission churches in Galatia. He finally ends up in Ephesus for an extended stay.

Luke gives little away on the path Paul takes to finally get from Syrian Antioch to Ephesus. The problem is that the term Galatia can refer to an ethnic area to the North, or to the Roman province to the South, including Phrygia, Lycia, and Phamphylia. If Paul takes a northerly path, we have no specific record of churches having been established there by Paul. None-the-less, a northerly path is supported by Fitzmyer, Barrett, .... A southerly route would take Paul to the churches he founded on his first missionary journey, eg., Iconium, Lystra, Derbe, ..... This path is supported by Bruce, Marshall, Bock, ....

It is argued by critical scholars that Luke provides no information about Paul's supposed north Galatian campaign, nor the details of his journey from Syrian Antioch to Ephesus, because he didn't know about it, but it is more likely that there was no north Galatian mission, and that Luke's summary details of the journey are just that, a contextual summary. The inclusion in the Way of the followers of the Baptist is what interests Luke.

Luke's reason for including these stories may simply come down to the abundance of his Ephesian source-material, or possibly even his desire to record how Apollos was included in Paul's church-planting ministry, given the important part he was to play later in the church at Corinth. Barrett suggests that Luke may be providing a guide to believers on how to handle a disciple of John if they should ever meet one. It is though likely that the outward move of the gospel lies at the heart of Luke's thinking. As the gospel spreads from Jerusalem to the ends of the world (Rome!!), so it spreads from Jews, to Hellenist Jews, to God-fearers, Gentiles, and yes, even the disciples of John the Baptist - the Abrahamic covenant finds its fulfilment in Christ, in his body, the Spirit endowed fellowship of believers.

The record of the baptism performed on the twelve disciples of John the Baptist, is an unusual story, and was obviously of particular interest to Luke. It serves to highlight a rather controversial way of understanding the phrase "baptising them in the name ....." Matt.28:19, and by extension, the meaning of the phrase, "the baptism of John", Act.18:25, or "John's baptism", Act.19:3. See background notes above.

Text - 18:18

An overview of Paul's movements, v18-23. Luke's having remained hJmeraV iJkanaV, "days sufficient" = "days considerable", expresses an extended period of time; "Paul stayed on for some considerable time longer", Barclay. "After this", ESV, Paul leaves Corinth and heads to the port of Cenchreae, seven miles east of Corinth, and from there, sails off to Syria, via Ephesus. Given that from Ephesus he sails to Caesarea, Paul may intend to visit Jerusalem before going back to Syrian Antioch. The Western text in v1 notes that even at Athens, Paul's intention is to visit Jerusalem again.

prosmeinaV, (prosmenw) aor. part. "[Paul] stayed" - [but/and paul] remaining with [still days considerable to = with the brothers]. The participle is adverbial, best treated as temporal; "After waiting for a number of days", Moffatt. The modifying temporal adverb eJte, "still", intensifies the temporal aspect of the participle. The dative "brothers" is adverbial, expressing association / accompaniment.

apotaxamenoV (apotassw) aor. mid. part. "he left [the brothers and sisters]" - having said good bye [he set sail into syria, and with him priscilla and aquila]. Attendant circumstance participle expressing action accompanying the verb "to set sail;" "Paul said goodbye to the brothers and sailed for Syria", Moffatt. The aspect of the imperfect verb "to set sail" may be inceptive; "he prepared to set sail."

keiramenoV (keirw) aor. mid. part. "he had his hair cut off" - [in cenchrea] having cut, sheared = shaved [the = his head]. The participle is adverbial, probably temporal, "While in Cenchrae, Paul shaved his head." The middle voice implies that Paul did the shaving.

gar "because" - for [he had a vow]. Causal, introducing a causal clause, "because he had taken a Nazarite vow."


By mentioning how Priscila and Aquila get to Ephesus, Luke sets up their later meeting with Apollos, v18.

autou gen. pro. "-" - [but/and, they arrived into ephesus and those ones he left of them = there]. A particular use by Luke of the genitive personal pronoun "of them" instead of the local adverb ekei, "there".

eiselqwn (eisercomai) aor. part. "he [himself] went into" - [but/and he = himself] having entered into [into the synagogue, reasoned with]. Attendant circumstance participle expressing action accompanying the verb "to dispute, reason, debate, argue with." The use of the personal pronoun autoV is emphatic by position and use, as NIV.

toiV IoudaioiV (oV) dat. "the Jews" - the jews. Dative of direct object after the proV prefix verb "to reason with."


"The Ephesian Jews were welcoming, at least to the extent of wishing to hear more from Paul", Barrett.

erwtwntwn (erwtaw) pres. part. "when they asked" - [but/and they] asking. The genitive participle and its genitive subject autwn, "they", forms a genitive absolute construction, temporal, as NIV.

meinai (menw) aor. inf. "to spend more [time]" - to remain, abide, continue. The infinitive introduces an object clause, dependent statement of indirect speech, expressing what they asked; "they asked .... that he stay longer."

epi "-" - upon [more time, he did not consent]. Adverbial use of the preposition, introducing a temporal modifier of the infinitive "to remain"; "to stay longer", Barclay.


alla "but" - but. Strong adversative in a counterpoint construction, "not ..... but ...."; "[he did] not [give his consent,] but [.....]"

apotaxamenoV (apotassw) aor. mid. part. "as he left" - having said good-by. The participle is adverbial, best treated as temporal; "On taking his leave of them", ESV.

eipwn (legw) aor. part. "he promised" - [and] having said. The presence of kai means that this participle is not technically attendant on the participle "having said good-by", nor is it like to be adverbial - another temporal construction. As a participle, rather than as an indicative verb, it serves to indicate that the following clause is direct speech.

qelontoV (qelw) gen. pres. part. "if it is [God's] will" - [god] willing [i will return again toward you. he set sail from ephesus]. The genitive participle and its genitive subject "God", forms a genitive absolute construction. There is some debate as to what form it takes. It is often treated as if it replaces an ean + subj. conditional construction; "If God wills" - Deo volente, a very common phrase in antiquity. Yet, as Culy notes, a temporal construction may still be intended; "I will return to you when God is willing."


Again, the Western text indicates Paul's intention of visiting Jerusalem; this was picked up by the AV, "I must by all means keep this feast that cometh in Jerusalem." The NIV has gone with a visit to Jerusalem, although the ESV stays with the received text, "he went up and greeted the church." The author of the textual variant probably assumed that Paul's shaved head is related to a visit to Jerusalem, although it is more likely that the vow, concluded with a shaved head, is made in response to his vision. None-the-less, the use of the verbs, anabainw, "to go up" and katercomai, "to go down [to Antioch]" , imply Jerusalem, situated as it is in the highlands.

katelqwn (katercomai) aor. part. "when he landed" - [and] having come down [into caesarea and having gone up and having greeted the church, he went down into antioch, and having done = spent certain time he went out]. This participle, as with "having gone up", and "having greeted", and "having done, made", is adverbial, best treated as temporal. Each temporal participial construction covering v20-23 is coordinated by kai, "and". They are formed to express a temporal record of events: "On having said good-by and having said ......... and having come down ..... and having gone up and having greeted ....... and having spent [certain time, he went out (he headed off on the third missionary journey)]."

diercomenoV (diercomai) pres. part. "[traveled from place to place] throughout" - passing through [in order = successively the galatian country and phrygia]. The participle is adverbial, modal, expressing the manner of Paul's going out, ie., the manner of his missionary tour; "Paul set out on a tour, visiting the whole of Galatia and Phrygia in order", Weymouth.

episthrizwn (episthrizw) aor. part, "strengthening" - strengthening [all the disciples]. The participle is adverbial, possibly final, expressing purpose of his "passing through", so Barrett, "in order to strengthen", although usually translated to express the manner of his "passing through"; "strengthening all the disciples as he went", Barclay.


The integration into the way of the followers of John the Baptist, 18:24-19:7: i] Apollos comes to Ephesus, a highly gifted teacher and preacher, but, knowing "only the baptism of John", he is somewhat lacking in a full understanding of the Christian faith and must be instructed before embarking on a ministry in Achaia, v24-28.

a) Ministry in Ephesus, v24-25: Our story opens with a man named Apollos who comes to Ephesus and "speaks boldly in the synagogue." He was an "eloquent" speaker with a "thorough knowledge of the Scriptures", ie., he is an Old Testament scholar.

de "meanwhile" - but/and. Transitional, "now, ...."

onomati (a atoV) dat. "named" - [a certain jew] by name [apollos]. Dative of reference / respect, "with respect to his name, Apollos" = "with the name of Apollos."

tw/ genei (oV ouV) "a native of [Alexandria]" - [an alexandrian] by birth. The dative is instrumental, expressing means, "by means of his birth", or reference / respect, "with respect to his birth."

logioV adj. "a learned [man]" - a word = eloquent, erudite [man, arrived in ephesus]. A hapax legomenon, once only use in NT. Possibly "man of learning", or "man of culture", Moffatt, but "eloquent" is more likely.

w\n (eimi) pres. part. "with" - being. The participle is adjectival, attributive, limiting "a Jew", "who was well versed in the scriptures." "The scriptures" obviously means "the Jewish scriptures", ie. the Old Testament.

en + dat."[a thorough knowledge] of [the scriptures]" - [powerful] in [the scriptures]. Local, expressing space / sphere, metaphorical, although Culy suggests it is reference / respect; "He knew a lot about the scriptures", CEV.


The Western text describes Apollos as one "who had been instructed in his homeland (Alexandria) in the word of God", rather than "who had been instructed in the way of the Lord." The Western text is probably making it clear that Apollos is not a believer at this stage, and he obviously isn't, in the fullest sense. Apollos is a disciple of John the Baptist, immersed in water to express his repentance in anticipation of the coming messiah and his kingdom, and more importantly, immersed in John's messianic message. So, he arrives in Ephesus as a fire-and-brimstone messianic preacher (zewn tw/ pneumati, "burning in the spirit" is not a reference to the Holy Spirit). There would be nothing unusual in a Jew like Apollos meeting the disciples of John and accepting their teaching concerning the coming messiah. This teaching may well have advanced from John's early instruction, now identifying Jesus as the messiah. Yet, as Luke explains, it is defective, or better, limited - it requires the addition of the apostolic kerygma.

hn kathchmenoV perf. pas. part. "he had been instructed in" - [this one] had been taught. Periphrastic pluperfect formed by the imperfect of the verb "to be" and the perfect participle, expressing a past continuous, but now completed event, possibly used to emphasise durative aspect. "He had received instruction in the way of the Lord", Barclay.

tou kuriou (oV) gen. "of the Lord" - [the way] of the lord. The accusative "way" is probably an accusative of respect, "instructed with respect to / about the way." The genitive is adjectival, possessive, indicating the possession of a derivative characteristic, "the teaching pertaining to Jesus." Originally "the way" draws on Isaiah, referring to the way the messiah will travel, his pathway, his life. This is then extended to those who follow in the footsteps of the messiah, tou kuriou, "the Lord". In Acts this phrase has nothing to do with a person's manner of life, their conduct, but their having become a follower of Christ, ie., having accepted Jesus' "way", teachings, the gospel. The variant, "word of God", is probably not original, although it grasps the sense that, although Apollos knew of Jesus through the disciples of John, his understanding is limited; "He taught about Jesus accurately, although his perspective was limited to the teachings of John the Baptist."

zewn tw/ pneumati "[he spoke] with great fervour" - [and] burning, bubbling in/with spirit [he was speaking and teaching]. The participle "burning" is adverbial, modal, expressing the manner of his speaking, and the dative probably expresses reference / respect." So, if "spirit" is Apollos' own spirit, then he spoke "with great enthusiasm", TEV; "with great excitement", CEV. Possibly, but unlikely, the "Holy Spirit" is intended since Luke would use the phrase "filled with the Spirit"; "glowing with the Spirit", Goodspeed.

akribwV adv. "accurately" - precisely, diligently, accurately. Adverb of manner. If he was "accurate" in his teaching then it was only to the degree of his understanding, an understanding which was limited. To this end, Priscilla and Aquila had to explain "to him the way of God more adequately", so "he taught painstakingly", Goodspeed; "faithfully", Phillips.

ta "[about]" - the things [concerning]. The article serves as a nominalizer, turning the prepositional phrase "about Jesus" into a substantive, object of the imperfect verb "to teach"; "the things with respect to / about Jesus."

tou Ihsou "Jesus" - jesus. Again, we have a variant reading coming to the fore, although the best attested reading is tou Ihsou, rather than tou kuriou "the Lord." As already noted, it is not unreasonable to suppose that some of John's remaining disciples had come to identify Jesus as the messiah, but that they were lacking in a full understanding of the kerygma, the gospel.

epistamenoV (epistamai) pres. pas. part. "though he knew" - being acquainted with, understanding [only]. The participle is adverbial, concessive, as NIV. Properly meaning "being aware of / having experience of", Barrett.

Iwannou (hV) gen. "of John" - [the baptism] of john. The proper genitive "of John" is usually treated as verbal, subjective; "the baptism performed by John." The sense of John's immersion / baptism is a matter of speculation. Usually understood as immersed in water, but immersed in John's teaching about the kingdom should not be discounted; see notes above. Unlikely "John's message about baptism", CEV.


b) Priscilla and Aquila recognise that Apollos' understanding of the coming kingdom of God is primarily dictated by the teachings of John the Baptist, so they take him in charge and lead him to a full understanding of the gospel, v26-28. The Western text reverses the order with Aquila taking the lead (You can't have a woman instructing a man!!!). They take him aside and "explain the way of God more adequately" ("way" = the way of Christ = the gospel). Apollos later moves on to Corinth and, with his new-found understanding of the scriptures, is able to explain how Jesus properly fulfils Old Testament prophecy. In Paul's first letter to the Corinthian believers, he mentions the ministry of Apollos in Corinth, a ministry that followed his own. Although undefined, it seems that Apollos contradicted Paul on some matters of doctrine. By revealing that, although talented, Apollos is only new to the faith, Luke cements the authority of Paul's prior ministry in Corinth.

parrhsiazesqai (parrhsiazomai) inf. "[he began] to speak boldly" - [and this one began] to speak openly, boldly [in the synagogue]. Complementary infinitive, completing the sense of the verb "began". "He began to speak freely and fearlessly", Barclay.

akousanteV (akouw) aor. part. "when [Priscilla and Aquila] heard" - [but/and] having heard [him]. The participle is adverbial, best treated as temporal, as NIV. The verb "to hear, obey" takes a genitive of direct object, as here.

proselabonto (proslambanw) aor. "they invited [him]" - [priscilla and aquila] took [him]. With the sense "they took him aside."

exeqento (ektiqhmi) aor. "explained" - [and] explained [more accurately]. Taking the sense of "they set forth [to him]", Barrett, "fill someone in on something", BAGD, so "explained".

autw/ dat. pro. "him" - to him - to him. Dative of indirect object / interest, advantage.

thn oJdon "the way [of God]" - the way. Accusative direct object of the verb "to set forth = explain". Variant "of God" is strong, less so "of the Lord", but the shorter reading from the Western text, "the way", is preferred by many, cf., Metzger. See v5 for the sense of "the way" and for the genitive "of God."

akribesteron (akibwV) comp. adv. "more adequately" - more precisely. Comparative adverb: more diligently, precisely, accurately. "They gave him detailed instruction about the way."


Apollos desires to go to what is now southern Greece to minister there and he is encouraged to do so by the Ephesian believers and given a letter of commendation expressing their support.

boulomenou (boulomai) gen. pres. part. "when [Apollos] wanted" - [but/and he] desiring. The genitive participle and its genitive subject autou, "he", form a genitive absolute construction, temporal, as NIV, although, as is often the case, with a causal touch.

dielqein (diercomai) aor. inf. "to go [to Achaia]" - to go [into achaia]. Usually classified as complementary, although, given that the infinitive follows a cognitive verb, it may be classified as introducing an object clause / dependent statement of perception expressing what Apollos desired, namely "that he go to Achaia / Greece."

protreyamenoi (protrepw) aor. part. "encouraged him" - having been encouraged. Attendant circumstance participle expressing action accompanying to verb "to write"; "The Christian congregation in Corinth encouraged him and wrote to the believers in Greece ......."

apodexasqai (apodecomai) aor. inf. "to welcome [him]" - [the brothers wrote to the disciples] to receive [him]. The infinitive technically introduces a dependent statement of indirect speech expressing what the disciples wrote, although both Culy and Kellum opt for an underlying sense of purpose; "in order that the believers there may welcome him."

paragenomenoV (paraginomai) aor. part. "on arriving" - having come. The participle is adverbial, probably temporal; "When he arrived."

toiV pepisteukosin (pisteuw) dat. perf. part. "those who [by grace] had believed" - [he helped greatly] the ones having believed. Participle serves as a substantive, dative of direct object after the sun prefix verb "to help." The perfect tense expresses the sense of "believed and kept on believing."

dia + gen. "by [grace]" - through, by means of [the grace]. Instrumental, expressing means. Obviously "grace" means "God's gracious and unmerited kindness toward the sinner", here as either the instrument of salvation, of gaining a state of believing, so Barrett, "those who through the grace of God had become believers", Barclay, or the instrument for assisting the believers, "he was able by God's grace to help the believers considerably", NJB.


Arriving in Achaia, Apollos encourages the believers, particularly in his ability to argue the case for Christianity with the local Jews.

gar "for" - for. Introducing a causal clause explaining why Apollos was a help, "because ......"

diakathlegceto (diakatelegcomai) imperf. "he [vigorously] refuted" - he was refuting [the jews]. The imperfect, being durative, may be emphasising the ongoing nature of this debate, although, debate is of itself durative, as with speech in general. The word "refute" means "to overwhelm" someone by argument, BAGD; "to overwhelm by argument / to refute, defeat in debate"; "He strenuously out-argued the Jews", Barclay.

dhmosia/ dat. adj. "in public debate" - in public. The dative adjective is adverbial, modal, expressing the manner of his refutation; "publicly refuted", Phillips. As is often the case with important issues, they begin behind closed doors and then venture out into the public square. It is here where Apollos comes into his own and ends up carrying the argument.

epideiknuV (epideiknumi) pres. part. "proving" - showing. The participle is adverbial, probably instrumental, expressing means; "by proving from the Scriptures."

dia + gen. "from [the Scriptures]" - through [the scriptures]. Expressing either means, "by means of the scriptures", or with a more spatial sense expressing source, "through the scriptures."

einai (eimi) pres. inf. "that [Jesus was the Christ]" - [jesus] to be [the christ]. The infinitive serves to introduce an object clause / dependent statement of indirect speech expressing what Apollos showed / proved in his debate with the Jews, namely "showing ...... that Jesus is the Christ". The accusative subject of the infinitive is "Jesus". As a follower of the Baptist, Apollos would have sought to prove that the messiah is coming and that he is about to establish the kingdom of God, but as a follower of Jesus, he sought to prove that the kingdom is realised in Jesus; "Jesus is the messiah."


ii] Luke now records Paul's encounter with twelve disciples of John the Baptist, and in so doing, he records the active spread of the gospel, now even to the disciples of the Baptist, v1-7. The realisation of the kingdom of God is authenticated with tongues at Pentecost, 1:15-21, and also when the gospel burst into the Gentile world of Cornelius and his family. So now, as the gospel incorporates the followers of the Baptist into the Way, the move is again authenticated with tongues.

a) Paul meets some of the Baptist's disciples, v1. It is after Apollos has moved to Achaia (Southern Greece) that Paul comes to Ephesus during, what is commonly called, his third missionary journey. Here Paul meets a group who, like Apollos, are disciples of John the Baptist. The word "disciple" is most often reserved for believing Christians, but here it is also used of John's followers.

egeneto de "-" - but/and it came about, it happened. Transitional construction, indicating a major step in the narrative.

en tw/ + inf. verb "to be." "while [Apollos was ....]" - in the [apollos to be in corinth]. This construction serves to introduce a temporal clause. The accusative subject of the infinitive einai is "Apollos".

dielqonta (diercomai) aor. part. "[Paul] took the road [through the interior]" - [paul] having travelled through [the upper parts]. The participle is adverbial, best treated as temporal; "it was when Apollos was in Corinth that Paul, after passing through the inland districts", Moffatt.

katelqein (katercomai) "and arrived [at Ephesus]" - to come down, return [into ephesus]. This infinitive, as with euJrein, "to find", either serve to continue the en tw/ + inf. temporal construction, so continuing the temporal clause, so Kellum, or it serves to introduce a nominal clause, subject of the indefinite verb "it happened", so Culy; "Paul passed through the upper country and came to Ephesus and found some disciples [while Apollos was at Corinth]", cf. Bock

maqhtaV (hV ou) "disciples" - [and to find certain] disciples, students. Accusative object of the infinitive "to find." A word normally used of believers, but it must be remembered that the Baptist also had disciples and so it is very likely that the sense is not used here for "believers", but simply "disciples of John", cf. Marshall.


b) Paul seeks to ascertain whether these "disciples" are believers by asking if they have received the Holy Spirit, the Spirit of Christ, and are thus regenerate, born anew, v2. Their answer seems to imply that they have never heard of the Holy Spirit. Yet, John the Baptist taught that the coming Messiah would baptise with the Holy Spirit, Lk.3:16. So obviously, it's not that they have heard about the Holy Spirit, but rather that they are unaware that the promised Spirit is already poured out. So, the "disciples" are not yet believers since they have yet to hear the good news about Jesus, respond in faith and so receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.

proV + acc. "-" [and he said] toward [them]. Luke again uses this construction, instead of a dative, to introduce an indirect object.

ei "did [you ....]" - if [the holy spirit]. Normally used to introduce an indirect question, but here the question is direct.

elabete (lambanw) aor. "you receive" - you received. "Did the Holy Spirit come upon you ..?"

pisteusanteV (pisteuw) aor. part. "when you believed" - having believed? The participle is adverbial, best treated as temporal, as NIV etc. Barclay's "became believers", underlines our problem in that if they had not as yet received the Spirit, how could they be believers? Second blessing theologians answer this question by proposing an empowering / baptising / filling of the Spirit as a post conversion experience. Yet, given that John's disciples would present like Christians, it is not unreasonable for Paul to jump to conclusions. Assuming a person is a believer, doesn't make them a believer. The Baptist's disciples would be up on matters relating to messianic fulfilment, but they would lack Christ-specific information and thus, the gift of the Spirit.

oiJ de "they answered" - but/and they [said toward = to him]. Transitional construction, indicating a change in subject to the disciples.

all (alla) "[no]" - but. Zerwick suggests that the adversative is setting up a counterpoint construction, "not only did we not receive, but ......" We are on safer ground if we follow Culy who suggests that it serves an emphatic function in relation to the negation oude, as NIV; "No, we have not even heard that .....", ESV.

oud ... hkousamen (akouw) "we have not even heard" - we heard not. As already noted, they have already heard / been told about the Holy Spirit. John taught of the outpouring of the Holy Spirit - he baptises with water; Jesus baptises with the Holy Spirit, Lk.3:16. The reception of the Spirit is not a promised consequence of John's baptism. So, "reception of", expressed in the question, should be assumed. The Western text actually contains the variant "we have not heard if (whether) some have received the Holy Spirit", which at least indicates that some ancient scholars assumed an ellipsis (an omission of words) here.

ei "that" - if. Here the conjunction introduces an indefinite object clause / dependent statement, expressing what hkousamen, "we have [not] heard." John's teaching simply concerned repentance (expressed outwardly in water baptism) in preparation for the coming kingdom, and as such, it "conveyed no promise beyond that of the forgiveness of sins", Barrett. Jesus, on the other hand, proclaimed the realisation of the kingdom, a realisation that conveyed not only the forgiveness of sin, but the full appropriation of the promised blessings of the covenant facilitated in the outpouring of the Spirit.

pneuma aJgion "a Holy Spirit" - a holy spirit [is received]. The anarthrous adjective-noun construction (lacking the definite article) does not rule out a translation "the Holy Spirit" and this is surely the sense here. John's disciples were well acquainted with the Holy Spirit, but lacked the gift of the Spirit and thus rebirth/regeneration; "we have not heard that the Holy Spirit is received = given / distributed / poured out", taking the verb-be as impersonal, so Keener. Possible, but very unlikely, "we have not heard whether a spirit can be holy", Wallace.


c) The investigation of the "disciples" Christian standing proceeds by identifying their "baptism", v3-5. The baptizw, "immersion", Paul has in mind may well include symbolic water immersion, but primarily he is concerned with whose "name" they are immersed in; are they "immersed into/upon the name of Jesus Christ", ie., are they "committed to and identified with Jesus", Longenecker, cf., 2:38, subject to his teachings, or someone else? Their answer is simple and to the point; they are immersed eiV, "into" (en, epi) the immersion of John, into his name, committed to and identified to him, bound by his authority and subject to his teachings.

eiV tiv "what [baptism] did you receive?" - [and he said] into what [therefore were you immersed]? This construction will usually introduce a rhetorical question, although here the question is a direct one. The preposition, with the interrogative tiv, probably carries the sense "in", as "in/into, and the "certain thing / what" = "the name"; "Into what name were you immersed?" Again, the translators take the verb baptizw to refer water baptism. As in the notes above, the word can be used of being immersed into truth. This is not to say that water baptism, serving as a sign of repentance and thus an acceptance of that truth, doesn't go hand-in-hand with immersion in the truth. We have here, not a deficiency in liturgical rites, but of information. John's information, concerning the messiah ("into the name of John"), is preparatory and has long since been subsumed (fulfilled) by the information (gospel) concerning Christ ("the name of the Lord Jesus" = the authoritative revelation concerning Jesus the messiah).

oiJ de "-" - but and they [they said]. Transitional, indicating a change in subject again to the disciples.

Iwannou (oV) gen. "John's [baptism]" - [into the baptism] of john. The genitive is adjectival, possessive, identifying the possession of a derivative characteristic, "the immersion = teaching / instruction pertaining to John." Culy classifies the genitive is subjective, "the immersion performed by John" = "the teachings dictated by John."


The difficulty we face with the noun baptisma, and the genitive metanoiaV, "of repentance", is highlighted in Luke's gospel when he tells us that John came into the neighbouring region of the Jordan river khrusswn, "preaching" a baptisma metanoiaV, "a baptism / immersion of repentance" eiV, "into = for" the forgiveness of sins", 3.3. It's very unlikely that John was preaching water baptism, but rather that he was preaching an "immersion" of information concerning the coming kingdom of God which called for repentance expressed outwardly in water immersion / baptism.

ebaptisen (baptizw) aor. "[John's baptism] was a baptism" - [but/and paul said, john] immersed [with an immersion consisting of teaching / instruction]. The aorist verb, with its cognate accusative, is probably constative, encompassing the whole of John's preaching / teaching ministry. He immersed Israel into the truth of the coming kingdom, calling for a responsive act of repentance for the forgiveness of sins, in anticipation of the realisation of the promised blessings of the covenant. The gospel has a similar thrust, except that the kingdom is now and its blessings now (eg. the gift of Holy Spirit) and this through the life, death, resurrection and present reign of the promised messiah, Jesus.

metanoiaV (a) gen. "of repentance" - of = for repentance. The genitive is adjectival, limiting "baptism / immersion", but as usual, its sense is speculative. It is likely descriptive / idiomatic, "an immersion (consisting of information / teaching) which calls for an act of repentance". Wallace is to be commended for "a baptism that is somehow related to repentance" - "somehow related", yes indeed! The suggestions are many, eg., Zerwick, "a baptism in token of repentance"; Barclay, "a baptism which was a sign of repentance"; Cassirer, "John's baptism was one issuing from repentance"; ..........

tw/ law/ (oV) dat. "-" - to/for the people [saying]. The placement of this dative causes some confusion. It is usually treated as the indirect object of the participle legwn, "saying", although if this were the case, it would normally be placed after, not before, as here. And in any case, the attendant participle legwn serves in the sentence to introduce indirect speech, so an indirect object would be superfluous. It is likely that it serves as the indirect object / interest, advantage, of the verb "to immerse", "John immersed with an immersion of truth for repentance to/for the people."

iJna + subj. "to [believe]" - that [they should believe]. We may have expected oJti here. Introducing an object clause / dependent statement of indirect speech, expressing what John told the people to do, namely that they should believe in the one coming after him. As Bruce Gk. notes, in the synoptic gospels, John called on the people to repent in the face of coming judgement, rather than believe in Jesus, but Luke's record of Paul's words here are in accord with the gospel of John, 1:26ff , 3:25ff. "But he also told them that someone else was coming and that they should put their faith in him", CEV.

eiV + acc. "in" - into. This preposition is often interchangeable with en, "in", particularly when referring to belief. The forward placement of "into the one coming after him", reinforces John's preparatory role.

ton ercomenon (ercomai) pres. part. "the one coming" - the one coming. The participle serves as a substantive.

met (meta) + acc. "after" - after [him]. Temporal use of the preposition; "after" in time.

tout estin "that is" - this is. Explanatory construction; "That is".

Ihsoun "Jesus" - jesus. Variant Ihsoun Criston, "Jesus Christ", but "Jesus" is likely original.


In the case of these disciples of the Baptist, they obviously understood something of the coming kingdom, and had repented in preparation for the coming day, seeking God's mercy in the forgiveness of sins. Yet, in and through Jesus that day had arrived with the blessings of the covenant now realised; God's long-awaited Spirit is even now renewing his people. Jesus is the one the Baptist pointed to, he is the messiah, and so it is necessary for these disciples of the Baptist, to now place their trust in Jesus in order to receive the promised blessings of the kingdom.

akousanteV (akouw) aor. part. "on hearing this" - [but/and] having heard Paul's words. The participle is adverbial, probably temporal; "when they heard this", AV.

eiV + acc. "into" - [they were immersed] into [the name of the lord, jesus]. Expressing the direction of the action and arrival at. The Western text adds, "for the forgiveness of sins", assuming that the "immersion" here is water baptism. There is no evidence in the gospels that John's disciples, on following Jesus, underwent water baptism again. In fact, Jesus himself didn't practice the rite. As a sign of repentance, in the face of the coming kingdom, there was no point getting dunked again. These disciples were short on information and so they were "immersed into the truth concerning the Lord Jesus." See "Background" above. Ihsou, "Jesus", stands in apposition to "Lord."


d) The twelve disciples of John receive the Holy Spirit, v6-7. Following their instruction in the gospel, Paul lays hands on them, they receive the Holy Spirit, and they speak in tongues and prophesy. For Luke, the inclusion of these followers of John the Baptist into the new age of God's kingdom, as with Jews, God-fearers and Gentiles, is evidenced by an outward display of ecstatic prophecy in fulfilment of the words of the prophet Joel, 3:1-5

epiqentoV (epitiqhmi) gen. aor. part. "when [Paul] placed [his hands] on" - [and paul] having placed upon, put on, laid on. The genitive participle, and its genitive subject "Paul", forms a genitive absolute construction, temporal, as NIV. The laying on of hands is an Old Testament expression of identification in prayer. We may assume, "upon the head."

autoiV dat. pro. "them" - them [the = his hands]. Dative of direct object after the epi prefix verb "to lay hands on."

ep (epi) + acc. "on" - [the holy spirit came] upon, over, on, to [them]. Spatial; "came down on them", NJB.

elaloun (lalew) imperf. "they spoke" - [and] they were speaking. The imperfect here is possibly inceptive; "they began speaking in tongues." Luke is clearly describing this experience in the terms of the Pentecost event. For Luke, tongues serve to verify the outpouring of God's Spirit upon all peoples as the gospel moves outward to the ends of the earth, thus establishing the inclusive nature of the kingdom realised in Jesus. Jews receive the Spirit and speak in tongues, but so do God-fearers and Gentiles, and yes, even the followers of the Baptist. Thus, the kingdom is even now upon us.

glwssaiV (a) dat. "in tongues" - in tongues. The dative is probably adverbial, modal, expressing the manner of speaking.

te .... kai "...... and ...." - and ...... and ..... A coordinating construction, establishing a close connection between speaking in tongues and prophesying.

eprofhteuon (profhteuw) imperf. "prophesied" - were prophesying. Again, inceptive. The word underlines the fact that this event parallels Pentecost where speaking in tongues took the form of ecstatic prophetic utterances in a language / form that could be understood by the hearer, ie., "we hear them proclaiming the mighty acts of God", 2:11. Modern tongue-speaking seems to be something different to that experienced by the early believers, but the matter is one of debate. Modern tongue-speaking may be similar to what happened in Corinth, a phenomenon addressed by Paul in 1 Corinthians chapters 12 through to 14.


The number 12 may serve as a symbolic representation of the tribes of Israel, implying that the gathering of the lost tribes is complete with the inclusion of the Baptist's followers.

wise "about" - [but/and all the men were] about [twelve]. Bruce Gk. notes that this is a "characteristic Lukan modifying of exact numbers". Used with oiJ panteV, "altogether", it denotes "a precise number rather than the usual approximation", Culy, in which case "about" is best left out, so Williams; "there were a dozen men in all."


Acts Introduction


Exegetical Commentaries


[Pumpkin Cottage]